01STOCK_JANESVILLE_SCHOOLDISTRICT

JANESVILLE

Your child’s cellphone might spend the school day in a locker.

Or it might be stored in a pouch, confiscated and turned over to the main office or tucked inside your child’s hoodie pocket.

Another option? The phone might be used in the classroom.

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On Tuesday, members of the Janesville School Board Policy, Personnel and Curriculum Committee agreed the district needs more consistent policies for cellphone use.

Issues include the consistency of rules language and enforcement. In addition, the policies don’t cover newer technology such as the Apple Watch, nor do they cover cellphone use by elementary school students.

The middle school and high school parent and student handbook states, “Possession of cellular phones is permitted on school premises. Cellular phones must be powered off/turned off and not used for any purpose, unless permission is granted by the teacher.”

But each school had its own way of presenting that information to parents, said committee Chairwoman Michelle Haworth.

“When I got copies of all of them, I found that they have different content, different formats and different inclusions,” Haworth said.

As an example, Haworth said, the policy for Marshall Middle School is about six bullet points.

The Franklin Middle School policy is two pages and includes an explanation of what can happen to children when they get too much exposure to social media. It also explains the school’s decision to use Yondr pouches, Haworth said.

At Franklin, students place their phones into Yondr pouches during their first period classes. The pouches then lock. The phones are silenced but still receive notifications, calls and texts.

Students unlock the pouches at the end of the day by tapping them on a base. The bases are located in classrooms and the schools administrative office.

Haworth said she didn’t want to regulate how the schools enforced the policies. Franklin could chose to use Yondr, while another school might require the phones to stay in students’ lockers.

Board member Karl Dommershausen asked the committee to review the policies. He’s against having cellphones in classrooms at all.

“If you talk to most of the teachers—not the administration or the principals, talk to the teachers—they don’t like them in the classroom,” Dommershausen said.

District Superintendent Steve Pophal said he didn’t support eliminating phones completely.

Students use their phones to create content, such as videos for projects they are working on.

“It’s really about us finding that sweet spot where we don’t have kids being distracted, but at the same time we can leverage it as a tool when we need to,” Pophal told the committee.

The district has been getting “mixed feedback” about the policies, Pophal said.

Some schools have decided to crack down on standing rules. Craig High School’s policy states students are required to leave their cellphones in their lockers or place them in a pouch when they reach the classroom.

This year, the policy has been enforced more strictly than before.

“The rule hasn’t really changed, but our need to enforce it has (changed) due to teacher feedback,” Craig Principal Alison Bjoin said in an interview with the Gazette earlier this year.

The rule requires parents to come to the school to pick up their child’s phone if they are caught using it in class. There has been an increase in the number of parents making such trips to the office, district communications specialist Patrick Gasper said.

What’s worked well?

“I talked to Franklin Principal Dr. (Charles) Urness,” Pophal said. “With the Yondr pouches, it’s basically been ‘problem solved.’”

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